I have learned a lot from Verna Allee over the years, and frequently referred to her work on this blog. Now that Verna has retired her websites, I have collected some of her insights together in one place. It was her work on value network analysis [PDF] that particularly influenced my thinking.
“Only through the power of value networks can we address our complex issues – together – and create a more hopeful future.” —Verna Allee
“A value network is a web of relationships that generates economic value and other benefits through complex dynamic exchanges between two or more individuals, groups or organizations. Any organization or group of organizations engaged in both tangible and intangible exchanges can be viewed as a value network, whether private industry, government or public sector.” —Verna Allee
“The true shape and nature of collaboration is not the social network – it is the value network. Value networks are purposeful groups of people who come together to take action. Value network modeling and analytics reflect the true nature of collaboration with a systemic human-network approach to managing business operations. It shows how work really happens through human interactions, and provides powerful new practices and metrics for managing collaborative work. It provides a way to a) better support non-hierarchical organizations such as cross-boundary teams, and task forces, and b) quickly and effectively model emergent work and complex activities that have multiple variables and frequent exceptions.” —Verna Allee
Verna also discussed the difference between tangible and intangible assets and knowledge.
“Intangible knowledge exchanges include strategic information, planning knowledge, process knowledge, technical know-how, collaborative design, policy development, etc., which flow around and support the core product and service value chain.
“Intangible benefits are advantages or favors that can be offered from one person to another. Examples might be offering to provide political support to someone. Or a research organization might ask someone to volunteer their time and expertise to a project in exchange for an intangible benefit of prestige by affiliation. These are intangible products that can be exchanged, as indeed people can and do trade favors to build relationships.” —Verna Allee
“You can’t plan networks or force fit them into any pattern. You can’t constrain a network to be purely within your own organization – at least not if you want to get any value from it. Networks involve customers/citizens and partners. In fact every participant in a network is a partner – not in some corny marketing sense but in the reality of the exchanges in the network. Networks support communication across channels you didn’t predict in advance. They cross any organizational unit you might have defined – even following the VSM [Viable Systems Model]. For all these reasons networks are great sources of innovation – and that innovation is emergent.” —Verna Allee
Follow-up post: reflecting on the future of knowledge